National Constitution CenterCenturies of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline Exhibit
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1787-1790: We adopt a Constitution for our new Republic

To create a new nation that balanced power between the states and the national government required experimentation and imagination. The colonists had fought and won the Revolution under the Articles of Confederation, which created a union of states for the first time. But the central government established by the Articles proved ineffectual, and soon voices were calling for stronger central government. That call brought 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. It took nearly four months of debate and compromise to hammer out the framework of a new government. The Constitution, signed on September 17, 1787, was a remarkable embodiment of new ideas about government by the people and the division of power between states and the national government. Ratified in 1788, the Constitution was rounded out with a Bill of Rights in 1791, and has defined our character as a nation to the present day.

   
August 24, 1787
Delegates face the awful dilemma of slavery
September 19, 1787
We go to sleep with Articles and wake up with a Constitution

We, the people, are sovereign! Who else in the world can say that?
  August 29, 1786
On this day Shays' Rebellion breaks out in western Massachusetts; debtor farmers try to prevent foreclosure of their mortgages
September 14, 1786
Delegates in Annapolis say the Articles need fixing
January 25, 1787
Shots are fired as farmers riot in Massachusetts
  February 21, 1787
On this day Congress endorses call for Philadelphia Convention
  May 15, 1787
On this day George Washington arrives in Philadelphia for Constitutional Convention
  May 25, 1787
On this day Constitutional Convention begins in Philadelphia
  May 29, 1787
On this day Edmund Randolph presents Virginia Plan at Constitutional Convention
  June 15, 1787
On this day William Paterson proposes New Jersey Plan
  June 19, 1787
On this day Roger Sherman's Great Compromise offers dispute between small and large states over representation in Congress
July 13, 1787
North of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi
July 16, 1787
A breakthrough! Large states and small states find a compromise
  September 12, 1787
On this day Delegates debate inclusion of Bill of Rights
  September 17, 1787
On this day Delegates sign final draft of Constitution
  November 20, 1787
On this day Federalist Papers, promoting ratification of Constitution, begin appearing in New York papers
December 4, 1787
Who rules? The people...and only the people
  December 7, 1787
On this day Delaware becomes first state to ratify Constitution
December 12, 1787
Pennsylvania says “Yes!”
  June 21, 1788
On this day Constitution takes effect when New Hampshire becomes ninth state to ratify
  February 4, 1789
On this day Meeting in New York City, Electoral College unanimously elects George Washington President
  July 14, 1789
On this day Parisian mob storms the Bastille, igniting French Revolution
  September 24, 1789
On this day The Judiciary Act organizes federal court system
September 25, 1789
The anti-Federalists get their wish: a Bill of Rights
  February 2, 1790
On this day Supreme Court holds first session
  July 10, 1790
On this day Congressional act locates future seat of government in District of Columbia

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